What is Medicare Open Enrollment?

The Medicare Open Enrollment period is one of the most important times of the year for those who receive benefits under the Medicare program, and it is vital that you don’t let it go by without taking stock of where you are currently. If you are thinking about making changes to your Medicare coverage, or getting additional coverage, the time to do it is during open enrollment.

The Open Enrollment period for 2013 is October 15 through December 7.

Open Enrollment Defined

During the open enrollment period, all individuals who are enrolled in Medicare policies are allowed to make changes and update prescription drug and health plans for the New Year. Open enrollment is also the time for individuals who have not previously elected coverage have the option to do so. This period is usually over the holidays through late fall and early winter, but you should always make sure you know the precise dates for this period because it changes virtually every year. Missing it means that you will have to wait another full year until the next open enrollment period, unless certain qualifying events, which allow an individual to enroll outside of open enrollment, occur. Coverage for the new, adjusted plan would begin on January 1. Remember that your Medicare plan is an insurance plan, and that means that it can be adjusted yearly.

Adjusting Medicare Part D

One thing that many medicare beneficiaries examine when the open enrollment period arrives is their prescription drug coverage. With Medicare Part D, a phenomenon that regularly occurs is called the “donut hole.” This is a gap in coverage between the limit in coverage policy and the next year on the policy where the enrollee must pay all out of pocket costs. Thanks to the Affordable Care Gap, Medicare beneficiaries will be receiving some help on their donut hole spending in the future, including certain discounts and a boost in coverage limits.

Selecting Your Plan Adjustments

There may be many different Medicare options available to you during open enrollment, so don’t feel like you must be committed to the one you are using right now. This is particularly true when it comes to re-examining your Medicare prescription drug coverage. If your costs are too high, then it may be time to invest in a new policy. There are online tools that can help you determine the right plan for you, including a Medicare Plan Finder tool on the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov.

If you are happy with your coverage, that is great. You won’t have to worry about re-enrolling or doing anything at all during the open enrollment period. It is only for those who seek an adjustment to their coverage that the open enrollment period really matters.

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